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Community homestay – Family Holiday in Ecuador

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Ecuador San Clemente, Mattie with Inti mask

 

Kat and her family visited the San Clemente community, near Ibarra in Ecuador, for 3 nights. This is what Kat thought of their stay…

 

“San Clemente lies at the base of Imbabura Volcano, with a striking view of Ibarra below and the mountains around. The little community is spread out, and of the 30 families living here, 22 are part of the homestay initiative that was born here 18 years ago. The money that comes in benefits the families taking part as well as the whole community.

We met Juan in the centre of the Comunidad where he was playing cards. He interrupted his game for us and pointed us in the direction of his house, where his wife Soila was waiting for us already. Dressed in the traditional skirt and blouse of the Karanki indigenous people, she welcomed us into her home. Our girls (3 & 5) were excited to see two girls their age, Juan and Soilas’ granddaughters. Within minutes they were playing together, communicating through play in a way only kids can.

Ecuador San Clemente, sign on arrival

Arriving to San Clemente

 

 Homestay -a warm welcome instead of luxury

Staying at the house was a lovely way to gain insight into another way of life. We had two rooms downstairs while the rest of the extended family slept upstairs. Our rooms were clean, but basic, and as night fell it was cold with the lack of heating. A fire was lit in the mornings and late afternoons to keep us warm in the common area, and in bed several woolly blankets kept us warm. Yes, it was cold at times, but it felt right to not have the luxuries a hotel would have given us. A small bathroom was close to our room – basic but clean and thankfullywith warm water!

No television, no internet – it was a great escape of modern life.

Ecuador San Clemente accommodation

Basic but comfortable and clean lodgings

 

Guided activities

We started our days by sending the girls out with Juan to feed the animals (chicken, guinea pigs, alpaca, …). Two dogs and a cat provided hours of entertainment and the girls loved exploring the gardens, too. While they were playing we learned about the ancient calendar used in the local agriculture and the festivals celebrated locally.

I had offered to run a crafts session with the local school so we spent a morning talking about Scotland and making highland cows – finishing with a play at the local playground. Later, a small walk into the surrounding woods gave us information on the local plants and their mostly medicinal uses.

Ecuador San Clemente, guinea pig

Guinea pigs

 

Cubilche Mountain

The following day we set off on a 4 hour walk to climb Cubilche mountain – a climb from 2900m to 3880m which Lina managed (albeit with a little grumbling) surprisingly well … while her younger sister was carried by her dad. Climbing above the clouds was quite the experience for Lina and the satisfaction of reaching the top made up for the hardship of getting there. We enjoyed views of 4 lagoons and at times of Imbabura, but being here in rainy season meant it was cloudier than usual and we were denied the stunning views of Cayambe Volcano that we had hoped for. Nevertheless it was a beautiful walk.

Ecuador San Clemente, Kat family on Cubilche walk

The family on the Cubilche walk

 

What to do at San Clemente

The rains meant that we couldn’t do as many activities as we would have liked to, but we had a great time just being part of the family for a few days. Juan explained that there is a wide range of walks and activities to choose from – hardy walkers can tackle Imbabura or even nearby Cayambe. Plenty of low and midlevel walks are possible, too.  Or you can join in with the activities in the fields, at harvest time or planting crops – just whatever needs doing. Horseriding and mountain biking can be arranged.

For us, as a family, it was incredibly relaxing to stay at San Clemente and wonderful to see the kids having fun. There was plenty of hugs as we left and both girls were sad to leave – it’s a brilliant place to bring children, let them experience a different lifestyle and roam free without worries.

Ecuador San Clemente family and hosts outside house

With the host family outside the house

 

In summary, San Clemente and its homestay is a fabulous place for all age groups and offers a real opportunity not only to see how the locals live but share experiences with them.

 

 

 

 

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